This pasta soup with potatoes and pancetta is a traditional Italian soup made with potatoes, carrots, and leeks, tender pasta and diced pancetta. Hearty cold-weather comfort food.
Many people would never associate pasta and potato, but in this case, you’re really going to have to trust me. This recipe has been in my family for more than 50 years, and considering that so far there’ve been two chefs in the family, it must be fantastico! Make sure you use a mealy potato like a russet. [Editor’s Note: The word “mealy” in conjunction with potatoes may, for some, have undesirable associations. Although in this recipe, mealy is actually quite coveted given the lovely richness and thickness it lends to the consistency of this soup, which makes everyone we know rave.]–Gino D’Acampo
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Can I swap bacon for pancetta?
We’ve a wee caveat to share with anyone tempted to substitute bacon for pancetta in this pantry-minded recipe. While that swap works in some recipes, we don’t encourage trying it here. Pancetta’s sturdy texture and meatiness handily withstand being simmered in this soupy stew without becoming limpid and soggy. Sadly, the same can’t be said about bacon, which turns flabby. Save it for frying up in a pan.
Pasta Soup with Potatoes and Pancetta
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large leek washed and finely chopped
- 9 ounces store-bought or homemade pancetta diced (do not substitute bacon)
- 1 large carrot peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) dice
- 14 ounces russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice (2 small or 1 very large potato)
- 2 quarts (8 cups) hot vegetable stock (or substitute homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth, beef, or duck stock)
- 3 tablespoons canned chopped tomatoes drained, or more to taste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 1/4 cups (9 oz) farfalline or another soup pasta (or even spaghetti, broken into bits)
- 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Toss in the leek and pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.
- Add the carrot and potato and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for another 2 minutes.
- Pour in the stock, lower the heat, and simmer gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta and continue to cook over low heat, uncovered, stirring every 2 minutes, until the pasta is al dente, about 6 minutes.
- When the pasta is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Immediately ladle the soup into bowls.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I was actually surprised at just how much we liked this soup. It was extremely quick and easy to put together. Using top-quality ingredients, in a recipe where the ingredient list is not long, really made this dish taste fresh, clean, and pure.
I had questioned how the pancetta would cook by just sautéing it for 3 minutes with the leeks and then another 2 minutes with the potatoes. I use pancetta quite often, and usually cook the pancetta till it is brown or caramelized. I was concerned that I would not like the result, but wanted to try the recipe as written. This is another case of needing to have an open mind. The pancetta in the finished product was more like some very, very good ham which imparted great flavor to the broth.
I used a really good organic chicken broth that comes in a quart carton container that I keep around for when we do not have homemade stock.
Throwing the Parm in off the heat at the end really added to the wonderful taste and texture. The chopped canned tomatoes seemed like an afterthought. I don’t know if it was mostly to add a touch of color, because that small amount of tomatoes in 2 quarts of stock, along with the vegetables, doesn’t really make a difference in taste. However, the end result was so good, that I may just throw in just the 3 tablespoons when I make this again, and I will make it again.
The only change I made to the recipe, was throwing a piece of Parmesan rind in when I added the broth to the pot. We have a bag of Parmesan rinds in the freezer, and this seemed like a good time to use one. It was!
Excellent! This is a very simple recipe that is easy to follow with exceptional results.
I would caution the cook to go easy on the “salt to taste”. Leave it a little bit lacking until after you add the parmesan cheese or you risk making it too salty.
I think that you could use Yukon gold or another less starchy potato for some texture without losing any taste. (Just a thought.)
If you’re looking for a simple weeknight meal, this soup is a solid option as long as you don’t mind doubling up on carbs! The best parts of the soup are the pieces of potato and pancetta. I used low-sodium chicken broth and the resulting soup was flavorful without becoming too salty.
We enjoyed making a dish with Italian flavors that doesn’t necessarily rely on onion, garlic, and red chili pepper flakes. We did think that the tomatoes and leeks got lost in the final dish—those flavors weren’t really evident compared with the broth, Parmesan cheese, and pancetta.
This soup had such depth of flavor with such humble ingredients. The smoky pancetta infuses the potatoes with a great flavor. I served this to a group of soup haters and each one of them had seconds. The recipe works exactly as written so no guess work. It comes together easily for a dinner after a busy day. This is a wonderful, delicious soup
Shells are my pasta of choice for soups, and they were perfect for this one. I used chicken stock in my soup. It produced a rich, silken broth with lots of flavor. Both the carrots and potatoes maintain just a enough bite and they do not disintegrate.
WOW… Not sure where to start. This was a nice, hearty, yet light soup that warmed up everyone’s hearts tonight. Very easy to make and can so easily be adapted to ingredients you may have at home even though I followed it to a T. There is something about this soup that screams Italian.
We were 6 and still have leftovers for hubby to take some to work tomorrow.
I thought it was excellent when first served but within 15 minutes, the pasta had absorbed much of the broth. By the next day, I had to add 2 more cups of broth, and even more the third day (it makes a lot of soup!).
This soup had great flavor and consistency. I used bacon in place of pancetta but didn’t like the fact that it didn’t have enough time to crisp. Maybe pancetta would have reacted differently. Next time, I would cook the bacon separately, remove it, and then continue with the recipe.
Soup and pasta. What could be better? My family and I really liked the soup.
The instructions are easy to follow and the ingredients are not complicated. I used 3 cups of a low sodium chicken stock and 5 cups of water and an alphabet pasta. I didn’t have a chance to get out to the store to get actual pancetta so I substituted a bacon I already on hand. I did think only 3 tablespoons of the tomatoes seemed chintzy so I added a couple more since they were big chunks. I think when I make this again I will either add the whole tin or dice a couple fresh tomatoes.
Also I think pancetta is probably the better way to go, the bacon is nice, but the pancetta would be firmer.
Just as a final note, the pasta absorbed most of the broth by the next morning and made a sort of pasta stew for lunch. A little fresh Parmesan and broth made for a tasty second meal.
A great, hearty, warming soup for a cold winter’s night.
Since I already had chicken stock on hand I used that in place of the vegetable stock, but I’m sure that would have been just as good. I was able to find farfalline. I loved having both pasta and potato in the soup and enjoyed the flavor the Parmesan and leek lent the soup as well as the color and flavor of the carrot. Not sure how much impact 3 tablespoons of canned tomatoes gave the soup and next time I might just add the whole can, minus the juice, to save on waste.
I did use bacon instead of pancetta since it’s more budget friendly and of course easier to find in our area.
Leftovers were just as good. I highly recommend eating with the suggested warm crusty bread as it went so well with the soup. I used toasted and lightly buttered Italian bread.
Originally published January 27, 2021